Consciously or unconsciously, we tend to put our “real” life on hold when we’re in deep emotional or physical pain.
We think we just have to get through this thing, this phase, this difficulty, and then we can return to our lives - then it will be all right to re-engage and participate again.
Of course, there are activities we necessarily have to stop doing when we're in deep pain, that goes without
But it's also important to find ways to step back into life, to re-include activities we enjoy and people we enjoy, in whatever capacity we can, even while we are still living with pain.
When we’re in pain, we may not remember that we are still important to others. We still have an impact on the people who love us. They miss being with us, they still care for us, and they are part of our overall connection with life.
When we feel terrible, it’s easy to forget that we are still lovable and still loved. Withdrawing because we assume that people don't want us around, or because we can't participate fully, cuts off opportunities for loving engagement with life. It’s not entirely healthy, and it’s often not happy either.
When we're in pain for a long time, it's true, some of our friends and acquaintances will no longer be part of our lives, they will move on without us. But others will want to stay connected. I think it's important to find out who is still there for us, who tries to understand, who tries to hear, who offers to help in whatever way they can.
And it's important to reach out, not just for help (which is, in itself, a very important movement), but to reach toward life itself and toward engagement - not to wait for pain to stop before we can carry on with life.
We may not be able to be with others or participate in life in the same capacity as before, nevertheless, our ability to love is still present and we must never allow that to be shut down by pain. When we withdraw completely, we aren't being abandoned by others, we are the ones who are pulling away.
More Than Getting Through
We may choose to put our life on hold while we're in pain, but it doesn't wait for us. It keeps flowing on. That can become a great sadness if we wake up a few years later and realize we've disconnected ourselves from the main stream.
It's sad, and it's frightening. Best to find ways, however small, to remain connected with others, connected with life, even as we're on this challenging and often lonely journey through pain. Especially while we're on this challenging and lonely journey.
As the oft-quoted musician and performer, Prince, once stated, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” And we are all gathered here. This earth is too small for any of us to pull away into our own solo paths of sorrow and suffering. We’re all in it together.
And, hopefully, we can not just get through it, but find new ways to thrive, to flourish, to create, to love, and to dream.
Sarah Anne Shockley is the author of The Pain Companion: Everyday Wisdom For Living With and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain and Living Better While Living With Pain.
She is a regular columnist for Pain News Network. Visit her at www.thepaincompanion.com for resources for people in chronic pain and more information on her work.